Since the election in November, I have been feeling very anxious and have had trouble sleeping through the night. During the day my heart pounds for no apparent reason. And I wake up at 2 or 3 every morning and can’t fall back to sleep. I feel so exhausted at work, I can barely concentrate. Can politics cause an anxiety disorder? Am I going to be awake for the next four years? Help me!
Welcome to the Sisterhood!
Would it surprise you to learn that we have gotten a dozen questions just like yours in the last week? Be assured that you are not alone and we are glad that you reached out.
Here’s our thoughts:
Whenever there is change (particularly if that change is an upheaval accompanied by strong rhetoric), Anxiety Sisters often find themselves in anxiety overdrive. It sounds like you are in a constant state of hyper-vigilance, which, of course, is exhausting. That coupled with disrupted sleep surely results in difficulty concentrating, as well as any number of anxiety symptoms.
Many of us are feeling overwhelmed by world affairs right now, and it is setting off our already heightened anxiety. We have a few suggestions for you (which we are attempting to implement ourselves!).
1) Stay in the present. Remind yourself that you are living the same life you did before the election; nothing concrete has changed. We like the mantra “I’m okay” and often repeat it to ourselves when we get too caught up in what might happen in the future. None of us knows what the future will bring (even those experienced pollsters). Keep telling yourself that, for today, for now, you are safe and okay. Post a note that says, “I am okay” where you can see it throughout the day.
2) Be choosy with what you read/watch. Do you need to take a vacation from social media and/or the news? It’s okay to tune out for a while until you are feeling more steady. If you can’t take a break, decide which sources and platforms are least anxiety-provoking for you. If you need to be on social media, you can also skip those posts that are inflammatory and not get into discussions that will not be helpful for your anxiety. DON’T BE AFRAID TO BLOCK THE POSTS OF A PARTICULARLY ANXIETY-PROVOKING FACEBOOKER. We all have these folks in our feeds, and it is very easy to change your settings so you don’t have to read their craziness every day. Best of all, they will never know!! You should also feel free to tell people that you really don’t want to discuss politics at social outings. Abs posted a placard on her dining room table at Thanksgiving that said, “No politics, please.”
3) Self-care. We know everyone is going to suggest meditation, yoga, and exercise. Of course, you are already exhausted and are probably not looking to add more things to your to-do list! But self-care doesn’t have to involve another chore. What are the things that brought you joy before the election? Self-care could be taking a lavender bath, playing with your cat, working on a jigsaw puzzle, or even binge-watching a non-political show. And nothing beats a great massage!
4) Practice self-compassion. Understand and accept your heightened anxiety for now. Try to be gentle with yourself. Feeling anxious speaks to your connection to the world and is not a personal weakness. Give yourself some time to feel whatever you need to feel. Remember, you are not alone!
Let us know how you are doing and what has helped.